Guillaume Hannezo, the former chief financial officer of Vivendi Universal SA, is being investigated by French officials looking into alleged wrongdoing at the media and telecom giant, according to wire service reports.
Hannezo was formally put under investigation on Friday for possible stock manipulation and providing false information, according to Reuters, citing his lawyer Jean Veil.
This move is regarded as one step short of being charged, according to the Associated Press. Even so, Veil played down the significance of the move, saying it amounted to a “technical measure,” according to the AP.
Vivendi treasurer Hubert Dupont-Lhotelain, as well his deputy and a Deutsche Bank manager, were also place under investigation in March as part of the same probe.
Officials are said to be investigating Vivendi’s official communications and financials in 2000 and 2001 — specifically, a huge share buyback in September and October 2001 above the levels authorized by market rules.
According to the AP, prosecutors allege that the buyback was intended to boost the company’s stock price after the September 11 terror attacks.
In January 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported that questions had been raised about the exercise of large amounts of stock options on December 28, 2001, by Hannezo, former chairman Jean-Marie Messier, and another staff member. Hannezo resigned in July 2002, several weeks after the Messier ouster, and was replaced by Jacques Espinasse as senior executive vice president and CFO.